Director and auteur David Lynch is known for his iconic films and television shows such as Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks. Imagine my surprise when a wonderful friend of mine gifted me with a book written by him. Catching the Big Fish is a collection of thoughts and extended musings about Lynch’s personal philosophies that guide his life. The book’s subtitle “Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity” pretty much sums up the cornerstones of these writings, but the picture he lays out is much broader.
Broken up into small one to two-page sections, the book maps out a primer on how to live a life that includes an expansive awareness of self and the world and an attunement toward persistent ideation. Lynch wants his readers to think about how meditation can be a gateway into a landscape of creative ideas, and he makes a compelling, albeit gently conveyed, case for this. He does so by using his own life as an example from his early days as a painter in the fine arts and through experiences developing ideas for films like Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, and others.
For filmmakers like myself, gaining insight into his creative life is one of the best parts of this book. His body of work stands tall among the best in the business. For everyone else looking to nurture a contemplative life rich with artistic fulfillment, Lynch offers plenty to ponder.
Here are the polka dot pros:
Easy to read. The short sections of this book make it much more accessible in terms of digesting Lynch’s ideas in smaller chunks. Even at a length of 180 pages, I could easily imagine finishing this in one long and luxurious sitting. Nonetheless, this book is best enjoyed without the pressure of rushing through it. I took my time over three days, and I’m glad I did. I was able to let his ideas sink in as I read along.
Gentle writing style. There is a casual ease to the tone of this book. You won’t find any moral grandstanding or ultimatums here. Reading this felt like a conversation a person would have while sitting around at a pond and fishing. It is idyllic and sweet.
Insightful about Lynch’s work. If you are attracted to this book because you are a fan of Lynch’s films, this book does not disappoint. While it is far from an exhaustive exposé on his creative output, the kernels of what he does provide are quirky and amusing, and he links everything to how his meditation practice plays a foundational role in all of it.
Perhaps this book would be more interesting to people who have seen Lynch’s movies, but as a case study of the effects of meditation on creative work, this book hits that mark easily.
It is also such a delightful and thoughtfully conceived little book and is certainly worth the leisurely time it takes to read it.
Today’s book recommendation is for no ordinary book. I’d say it is a children’s book for all ages—a whimsical, spellbinding, and imaginative tour-de-force!
The Wanderer by Peter Van Den Ende is one of those rare books in which its author and illustrator are the same person. (This is not often the case, and by my estimation, this work is of the same caliber as that of the legendary author and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg.) Peter Van Den Ende has crafted a marvelous tale in which the detailed images tell the entire story. No words are needed.
In its story, a tiny paper boat sets off on an epic voyage across an enormous ocean filled with strange creatures. The boat floats and scurries along while getting much-needed help in the most unlikely and magical ways. The artwork is meticulously detailed and awe-inspiring. Each page and vignette can stand alone and still be more than enough.
I am a big fan of children’s books, and I have a small collection of ones that are unusual and incredibly beautiful. This book checks all of my boxes and has a permanent home in my collection. To me, a children’s book is a work of art. The good ones tell a story poignantly in as succinct and eloquent a manner as possible. The best ones are fueled by striking imagery that is both visionary and skillfully rendered.
If you know of a child who would love a book as amazing as this, I highly recommend that you give that child this book. He or she will find their own imaginations wandering out into the most fantastical places fearlessly and boldly—just like the little paper boat in this book and just as every child’s (and adult’s) mind unabashedly should.
(P.S.—I am what most people would consider a grown-ass man, and I bought this book for MYSELF. You don’t need to get this for a kid. If you are an art lover like me, you’ll love this book. It is literally EVERYTHING.)
I found this week’s selection in a lovely used bookstore, and it is one of the best purchases I have made recently. A Zen buddhist monk named Shoukei Matsumoto wrote it, and the book is entitled A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind. Before you run off screaming or rolling your eyes, I should preface this recommendation by saying that over the years I have become more and more enamored of Japanese culture—particularly the parts of it that deeply integrate Zen Buddhism. If this is a sensibility that you share with me, then you will thoroughly enjoy this book.
Originally published in 2011, the English version I found was released by Penguin Books in 2018. I have found that this book could have been written 50 years ago, and it could still be relevant to our modern lives today.
So, what are the polka dot pros?
Clear and gentle writing style. Whoever wrote the English translation of this book must have taken a few notes from the sweet and magnetic Marie Kondo. There is a disarming and friendly voice that speaks through its pages. The writing has a smooth flow that is not judgmental or pretentious in its tone.
Whimsical illustrations. As a visual artist, I can appreciate the extra effort it takes to add illustrations to a book. The drawings are adorable and effectively reinforce each kernel of wisdom that Matsumoto offers.
Applicable to real daily life. There is nothing in this book that is impractical or obtuse. Matsumoto explains how to carry out each practice and the underlying philosophy that is its cornerstone.
Of course, not everyone can live like a monk, and there are many people who would not want to. That is actually not the point of this book. One of its basic tenets is that one’s home is an extension of one’s physical body. As such, one should take care of one’s home as one does with his or her body. It contends that one’s mental health and wellbeing have a lot to do with how a person manages her or his surroundings. This book does not just show people how to clean a home. It presents a lifestyle that cultivates one’s values and priorities through daily practices and intentionality.
I, for one, loved everything about this book, and I have already started to implementing a few of its recommendations.
Do I want to live like a monk?
Do I want to mold a more calm and meaningful life for myself?
If someone offers you a piece of wisdom, it is often wise to take it.